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West Virginia Amateur coverage

Favorites enjoy "traditional" practice round

by John G. Miller


(June 8) On the eve of the West Virginia Amateur, it only made sense to see three-time defending champion Pat Carter using a final practice round to learn more about the Pete Dye Golf Club.

You would also expect five-time champ Harold Payne and two-time champ Steve Fox to be out on the course, looking to gain that little edge that could make the difference in Thursday's final round.

But to find all three playing together Sunday seemed a little odd.

What about the spirit of competition?

"It's a tradition," Fox said. "We've done it forever ... probably at least the last 15 years."

The trio, along with Reid Carroll, played a friendly 18 holes Sunday. In the past, when the tournament was at The Greenbrier, they'd play 36 holes on Saturday and then 18 on Sunday.

But, like the Amateur, that tradition has been altered just a bit. However, the friendly barbs and side bets continued.

"Really, it's just a great way to relax," Carter said.

"And it gives you one last chance to get a feel for the course ... get used to the speed of the greens and the rough."

All three past champions said the Pete Dye course is probably "two to three shots per round" more difficult than The Greenbrier's two courses.

"The course was playing very tough the way they had it set up today," Carter said.

"It was playing fairly long and it was very windy."

The foursome encountered plenty of challenges including fast greens and a thick rough.

Wind was a factor all day and on No. 15, a driving, cold rain added to the difficult par 3.

By No. 16, the sun was back out and the four golfers were really enjoying themselves.

It was hard to tell they were preparing for four rounds of championship golf.

On No. 18, when Payne lost low medalist honors by slicing two straight shots into the "jungle" to the right of the fairway, even his playing partner, Fox, turned on him as they joined Carter and Carroll scouring the underbrush for Payne's errant shots.

"It's competitive, but we have a lot of fun," Payne said after the round which found all four golfers at or near 80.

"But, they were pretty brutal on me on No. 18."

Not nearly as brutal as the Dye course will be to the field of 90 golfers who tee-off today.

"There's pressure on every tee shot," Carter said. "And the greens are so fast.

"At The Greenbrier, there were plenty of chances to make up for mistakes.

"Here, it's tough to get them back."

Carter, considered the odds-on favorite by nearly everyone, admitted the course could change his approach to the four-day event.

"You have to go out and try to make as many pars as possible," Carter said.

"Because you know you're going to make some bogeys. You tend to play conservative."


Although family's first, Payne still contender

by Chris Errington


(June 8) For those who follow West Virginia amateur golf and are wondering if Harold Payne fell off the face of the planet, the answer is no. He's just found something he believes is more important to occupy much of his time.

The five-time West Virginia Amateur champion now spends hours once reserved for the golf course with his family Ñ a decision many athletes with growing children find difficult to make.

"I don't regret spending as much time with my kids as I do and not playing as much golf," Payne said.

"I think I reached a point where I didn't want to be in the background of my kids' lives so much. I wanted to be on the sideline with them."

Payne's two children, Grace Ann, 16, and Martin, 14, are now the focus of the golfer who reached Amateur elite status by winning the tournament in 1979, '86, '87, '91 and '93. Payne has spent much of his time helping Martin's AAU basketball team reach a national tournament in Michigan.

"I've experienced a lot of success in golf," Payne said. "Now it's time to do some other things, too. I've really enjoyed helping out with the team."

Payne has limited his playing time severely, admitting he participated in only one May tournament after playing in four during the month most other years.

The lack of practice rounds and previously unspectacular competitive rounds have kept Payne's expectations for a championship at this year's Amateur, which begins today at the Pete Dye Golf Club, somewhat low.

"I haven't played a lot of competitive golf since last year. And at the (U.S.) Open Qualifier at Pete Dye, I had to scramble for a 78," Payne said.

Payne cited rounds of 81 and 86 at the U.S. Amateur qualifier as the low point of his season last year and said "my chances aren't good" for this year's Amateur.

Still, Payne believes that in time, golf will once again become a major part of his life.

"Once my kids are done with school and on their way, I'll get back to playing a lot," Payne said. "Right now I'm not as goal-orientated as some other guys like" three-time defending amateur champion Pat Carter.

"There'll be a time for me to play championship golf again," Payne said, then added with a chuckle, "but by then it will probably be senior amateur golf."

A fixture at the amateur since he was 14, Payne, also the West Virginia Golf Association president, says this year's move from The Greenbrier to the Bridgeport course is an ideal one.

"The Greenbrier will always hold a special place in my heart," Payne said, "but if you're going to move it, what a place to move it to."

Payne heads into this week's tournament fully aware that Pete Dye's layout mandates skillful play off the tee in order to post a low score.

Unfortunately, that's the same area of his game he puts the most blame on for his recent poor showings.

"You have to drive the ball well to have a chance at that course," Payne said. "Right now I'm struggling off the tee. And if you do that there, you're in for a world of hurt."

With mental toughness a key during the four-day tournament, Payne is hoping his mind, and memory, will help him.

"Golf's a funny thing," Payne said. "I've played some wonderful rounds at Pete Dye. Those successes are still in the back of my mind. If I can get in a groove, you never know what can happen."


WVGA: Dye course won't alter tradition

by Mike Nutter


(June 8) The venue may be different, but that's the only thing that should feel unfamiliar to the participants in this week's West Virginia Amateur.

For the first time in the Amateur's history, the four-day event will not be held at The Greenbrier. It opens today at the Pete Dye Golf Club near Bridgeport.

According to Brett Lea, Manager of Communications and Course Ratings for the West Virginia Golf Association, the quality of play shouldn't change with the new setting.

"We are basically going to adhere to the same format that we always have," said Lea. "We want all of the participants to have the same experience that they have had in the past.

"This is still the Amateur, and we want it to continue to feel like that."

As in past amateurs, the traditional awards dinner will follow first-round play.

All players are invited to attend.

"(The dinner) has always been a positive experience in the past," said Lea, "and we expect another great evening this year."

One of the honors to be handed out will be the Joe England Award, which will be awarded to former WVGA executive committee member Albert Schwabbe II for his past service to the association.

A more noticeable change in this year's Amateur will be the influx of participants.

The 78-player field was expanded to 90, and brought with it a worry that rounds could become lengthy and drawn out.

However, Lea isn't as concerned as much with the time factor as he is with Pete Dye's reputation of being an unforgiving course.

"We did a pace rating in order to determine a general length of time that we may be looking at," Lea said.

"We're not really expecting the larger field to inhibit play that much, but Pete Dye can be extremely penalizing.

"Because this course is unfamiliar to a lot of the players, we are anticipating a little longer rounds."

Lea praised the hard work of some individuals in helping Pete Dye's preparation for the event.

"We've had a lot of local help," said Lea.

"(Director of Golf for the Pete Dye Golf Club) Bill Stines has done an excellent job of organizing people to help out, so there should be no problem there.

"Overall, we've had a tremendous response about going to Pete Dye," Lea said.

"Since it was announced that it was being played there, it has been the buzz around the tournament."